I wake up staring at a blank ceiling. I blink. Where am I? Ah, yes the plain walls are boxing me in, trapping me like a wild animal. Or is it protecting me? I walk to the window and see a white blanket covering the street, the car, the gas station. I am still in the hotel, away from the coldness, even further away from the tropical trees of paradise.
” Hey.” I turn around, once more looking straight at myself. They hand me a postcard, their fingers sweaty and trembling from the firecrackers bursting inside their body.
“What is this?” Belatedly, I smile. Sometimes I forget, and I come across as a drone, empty and devoid.
“It’s…it’s…” they stammer and I know they are about to go mute. It happens sometimes; the wires in my brain short circuit and the words are lost, their hands searching blindly in the dark woods for the light they have dropped. Eventually, they will come again, finding and reconnecting with the path that will take them away. So I wait.
“It’s for you. A story I hope you will… you will like.”
I guess I wasn’t the only one writing away in the night.
The Dragon’s Tail
The silver of the moon crept into his window, casting a faint light across his face. Immediately, he woke and, alarmed, he tossed the blankets from his bed, crossing the room towards the window. Where was she? There was supposed to be a knock, three short knocks to be precise; each knock would be sharp and distinct, a staccato pattern only they would know. But it did not come.
The moon was already high: he was late. Swiftly, he pulled on his black boots and threw a thick leather coat over his shoulders. He opened the door and stopped. Hanging in the closet was the bow and arrows given to him. He grabbed it and slung it over his back.
Quietly, he tiptoed down the stairs, careful not to wake his parents sleeping soundly in the other room. Creaaakkkkk. The loose floorboard squeaked riotously. He froze. Nothing stirred, the house remaining quiet except for the snores. He hurried through the kitchen, out the back door, and into the yard.
Outside the stillness was palpable. Nothing moved, nothing stirred. There was no breeze rifling through the branches, no chirping of the owls or crunching of the leaves as he stepped passed the underbrush at the edge of the yard. He shuddered. The silver of the moon illuminated the path ahead in a lustrous glow, which was some comfort. Still, he gripped the bow tighter.
Swiiisshhhhh. Something moved. He swiveled his head, searching the dark trees. There was nothing. He continued along the path, nearly faded except for their footprints which pressed down, flattening the mud and dirt, along the previously made trail that spent so long in disuse until they stumbled onto it. It was pure happenstance, he recalled, on a warm summer’s day where the breeze was brewing, and the blue jays were chirping. Stifled with boredom, he had escaped the house and wandered into the yard, noticing for the first time the hidden trail. He had followed it until he came to a clearing and he saw her, sitting in a circle of stones clad in armor. She had been chanting.
“What are you doing?” he had asked.
“Shhh!” she had held up a hand silencing him. With the other, it hovered above the ground, the fingers flexing in and out. He watched her, mesmerized by the softness of her voice, so soothe and melodic.
“What are you doing?”
“I am trying a summoning spell. These woods are not safe, you know.”
“Safe from what?”
“The Hunter that Prowls.”
Ordinarily he would have believed her to be crazy, but there was nothing ordinarily about her. Immediately his heart was seized by beautiful green eyes sitting like pools on a heart shaped face. He stared and stared, getting lost in the whirlpool where the first stirrings of love lingered. He was yet of an age where he understood the magic that caused his heat to beat rapidly, his palms to sweat, and his body to quiver, but he knew there was an inexplicable drawing, a tether which could not be severed. He would go wherever she went because it seemed wrong to do otherwise.
“Here, let me show you something,” She bounded away from the circle, down the trail and deeper into the woods. He had followed, listening as she rifled through the brush. When he found her again, she was standing in front of a garden where a small waterfall ran from above, a guardian to the purple and blue flowers dancing in the sun.
“The Hunter is looking for this, but we cannot let this be found. Will you help me?”
He had nodded wordlessly. How could there be something so marvelous, so extraordinary in a place so ordinary? Long ago he had stopped believing in magic, yet before his eyes there it was, in between the leaves and petals.
From her back she pulled off a bow and a satchel of arrows and handed it to him. “Then help me. Day and night, we must keep watch. And I will need you to watch for me so I can finally complete the spell. Can you do that?”
Again, he nodded. He had spent the rest of that day not so much watching for her, because he did not know what he was watching, but watching her. When the sun finally dipped beneath the trees did he bid his farewell.
“Why must you leave?” she had asked only once, for he needed to only answer her once. “Ah, so you’re a civilian. Very well. Show me where you live.”
This strange girl had to simply bat her eyes and he was lost again in the tantalizing whirlpool.
He took her to his yard but stopped on the edge. They were clustered out in front, waiting with presents wrapped in lustrous paper. Suddenly the spell she had cast over him broke, and he was ashamed to be near her, a girl clad in armor chasing down things that did not exist. She had given him a knowing look and said: “I will come each night and knock. When I do, it will be safe for you to come out. And I hope you do because I need you.”
Every night she had come. Every night, against his better judgment, which was no match against those swirling green eyes, he had gone with her. Except tonight; something had gone wrong. He thought about those three words. “I need you.” Nobody had ever said that to him before and he trembled, excited despite the ridiculousness of what she needed him for. What was it exactly? It did not matter because his heart irrevocably belonged to her and he would follow her, no matter where the path she took led.
Swiiiiiisshhhhh. Something was flying around him, and he saw its tail break through a tree, splintering the wood. He ducked, narrowly avoiding a piece which sailed past his ear and dug itself into the ground, the same ground where he first saw her. The stones were still there, although no longer a circle. He ran, his heart beating rapidly. Where was she? She was supposed to be here.
The tail slammed onto the ground, sending boulders and fallen branches into the air. The earthquake startled him, and he tumbled, head over heal, his bow scattering across the woods.
Pushing himself to all fours, he looked up, his face inches away from a long purple tail thicker than an anaconda and covered in shiny scales sharper than knives.
He gulped, his trembling fingers reaching for the bow which seemed to lay miles out of reach. Who would have thought something so extraordinary lived inside something so ordinary? Never would he have thought this possible. Never would he thought he would have met a girl so extraordinary that everything else would be so ordinary.
Thinking of her and her swirling green eyes, he grabbed the bow and notched an arrow to the twine. Never had he shot at something. Never had he done anything so extraordinary. But he never had anything extraordinary to try for.
Taking a deep breath, he released the arrow and watched it fly.